Monday marked the deadline for municipalities to sign up for ranked-choice voting in Utah, with Salt Lake City and multiple other cities and towns jumping on board.
The Utah Legislature approved a pilot program for municipal ranked-choice voting in 2018, then expanded it in the past legislative session. It allows cities and towns to experiment with the election system, in which a voter selects multiple candidates in order of preference. If the voter’s first choice isn’t popular, the second, third or fourth choice will count instead.
Back in 2019, when the pilot launched, two towns — Vineyard and Payson — participated.
For this year’s elections, the number of municipalities that will switch to ranked-choice voting has grown to nearly two dozen.
“Utah now, as a state, has more cities participating in municipal ranked-choice voting than all the other states combined,” said Taylor Morgan with Utah Ranked Choice Voting, a nonpartisan group that lobbied city and town councils to adopt the system over the past year.
In Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Sandy, Cottonwood Heights, Bluffdale, Draper, Riverton, Midvale, Millcreek, South Salt Lake and Magna Metro Township have adopted ranked-choice voting.
In Utah County, Lehi, Payson, Springville, Vineyard, Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge, Goshen and Genola have enrolled, according to the lieutenant governor’s office.
In Cache County, Newton, Nibley and River Heights will participate.
Heber City and Moab also signed up this year.
Ranked-choice voting means those 23 municipalities won’t need to conduct primaries, saving taxpayer money. It also means less expensive campaigns, Morgan said, due to the shorter election season.
“Ranked choice is better, faster and cheaper,” he said. “And voters like it.”
At a presentation to the Sandy City Council last month, a representative with Utah Ranked Choice Voting shared a voter poll from the 2019 elections in Vineyard and Payson. The survey found 86% of residents from those cities found ranked-choice voting easy to use and 82.5% said it should continue in future elections.
Proponents of ranked-choice voting also say it fosters less divisive and negative elections as candidates focus more on the issues in their communities rather than attacking their opponents.
“Utah has the best-run elections in the country,” Morgan said. “Ranked-choice voting is the next step in trying to modernize and improve the process.”